The Goddamned Writing Life: Rejections

Ah, rejections! The bane of the writer’s existence. Like submitting your resumé to hundreds upon hundreds of tiny jobs all the while knowing you’re going to get turned down for each one. No question about it: rejections suck.

Some rejections suck less than others, though. The personalized rejection is always nice: the one where you get a human being giving you some chin-up-style feedback on the other end of the note. Back in the old days, this came in the form of handwriting on the tiny slip of paper you had to dig around for in your SASE. Karen Craigo, then poetry editor for Mid-American Review, was an expert at giving personalized rejections. I got a happy little note, complete with smiley face (that’s a handwritten emoji, for all you young’uns out there), every time I submitted. I think by the time her tenure as poetry editor was over, Karen must have had carpal tunnel syndrome from all the niceness she sent out over the years.

Then there’s the thoroughly amusing rejection, a turn-down so witty or unintentionally hilarious you just can’t stay depressed about it. Wanna hear my latest in this category? Well, here it is, anyway:

Dear Writer,

Thank you for entering the [BLAH BLAH BLAH EXTREMELY PRESTIGIOUS] Prize this year. We received more than [HUGE NUMBER] entries, and were delighted with the high-quality of the work we received. Our contest, and consequently our magazine, is only as good as the writing we receive, and we’re grateful that you gave us the opportunity to read your writing. On behalf of [MEGA-IMPORTANT JOURNAL’s] editorial staff and our contest editor [WRITER OF EMINENCE], I’m pleased to announce our winners and finalists in each category: [A LONG LIST OF WRITERS WHO ARE NOT YOU]

Wait a second, you might be thinking to yourself. This is just standard boilerplate for non-winners of writing contests. How is this thoroughly amusing?

Well, in my case, it’s because I didn’t enter this contest. I’ve searched all over my Submittable account and my email, and I can’t find any evidence that I sent anything to this journal recently. I’m know I’ve entered their contests in past years, but I’ve been passing on award submissions nowadays because a) they’re expensive, b) I never win, and c) I hate not winning.

Not to worry! says Mega-Important Journal. You have such a terrible history with contests that we thought we’d emphasize your miniscule-to-virtually-impossible chances of winning by preemptively rejecting you! That way, you won’t be so surprised when we do reject you next time around!

See why I hate writing contests?

Anyway, my overall point here has been said many times but bears repeating: rejection is part of the writing game. Don’t let it get you down. It’s okay to lick your wounds for a day, especially when you get a thanks-but-no-thanks from a journal you really like. Remember to move on afterward, though. Believe me, the more submissions you’re able to send out into the world, the thicker your skin will grow to the doors closed to you. Keep going until you find that one open door. Then keep pushing until you find a few more that might unlock one day.


One response to “The Goddamned Writing Life: Rejections

  1. This may not be much help, but I am always remind a friend whose writing is rejected that at least they can show they tried. I’d love a rejection letter, it would a least prove I finished a project.

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